This past week my 15-month-old son reminded me that there’s another important kind of help. I took him to the office with me while I processed a few orders. To keep him “occupied,” I gave him some cheese crackers to munch on while I worked. Within minutes, he was busy “helping” me! He sat on the floor next to me, transferring many of his crackers to the carpet, which he then proceeded to step on and diminish to a pile of crumbs. As I packaged one customer’s order, he watched me insert Styrofoam packing peanuts, and attempted to add some of his cheese crackers to the package’s contents. Although he was extremely frustrated when I wouldn’t let him do that, he moved on to arranging his crackers, one-by-one, on the bookshelves holding the books.
When I finished my work, I stepped back to survey the office, and was dismayed to note that it appeared as though a mini tornado had zipped through the bookstore, library, playroom, and packing areas. When I turned to look at the pint-sized tornado standing by my side, he was grinning from ear-to-ear, and clapping his hands as he surveyed his handiwork! The postal service workers got a chuckle when I later showed up at the post office with my packages and my little “helper,” and we discovered another stash of crackers in the bottom of the crate I was using to transport the boxes.
In my teaching and coaching, I talk about the importance of four components of healthy, well-balanced life: Nourishing, Growing, Connecting, and Contributing. Although Noah’s “help” created much more work for me, he was actively engaged in each of these areas as he spent time at the office with me this week. Toddlers have a need to explore, create, and be acknowledged. He was busy learning and growing as he watched me and experimented with his own ways of “helping.” His activities helped him connect with me and with the people at the post office. And probably most importantly, he was creating ways to “contribute,” using his time and abilities to make a difference in my life and the lives of other people he connects with.
What a great lesson for all of us! Sometimes the “help” we receive is really no help at all to us. (In fact, in the hour I spent at the office that day, I probably got about 15 minutes of work done, and will spend another 15 minutes cleaning when I go back this week!) But the opportunity to “help” can be a tremendous gift to others as they participate in meaningful activities that enable them to be nourished, and to grow, connect, and contribute. And in the process, we can be blessed as we appreciate their efforts, and take time to enjoy their presence, and perhaps take time to thank people who have allowed us to “help” them even when we were really no “help” at all!
Best wishes to all of you as you help…and are helped by…others in your life!